Saturday, December 28, 2013

Egg Thief

Lyric Hammonds, my girlfriend, has four chickens she takes care of to get fresh eggs.

Titan - The white one on the right
Schezwan - The butternut one on the left
Kung Pow - The speckled one on the left 

... and Cobalt by herself

Do their names give a hint which two were given to her from an Asian friend?

About three months ago, Lyric would get two eggs every three days. As the weather became colder, the eggs started to drop off, and she received fewer and fewer. This was despite a gift of two additional 'rescue chickens' from a friend. She somewhat expected the drop off, due to the cold weather and introduction of new chickens to her flock, until the chickens started producing zero eggs.

My girlfriend lives in a rapidly degrading neighborhood around University and Gold. Her neighbors are mid level drug dealers, distributing (mostly) weed. A half-way house just opened across the street from her. Someone was sleeping in a van in her parking lot. She's looking for a new place, but it's difficult to find something within her price range and this close to the university and community college. I became convinced that someone was stealing her eggs. This suspicion was further increased by the fact that she found TWO eggs on a very, very cold morning, when no one would want to go outside for an egg stealing mission.

I've been taking care of her chickens over the winter break, and during part of this time the egg thief was on vacation. At the earlier part of the break, I was consistently receiving an egg a day from the chickens, sometimes two eggs a day. After Christmas day, it's back down to an egg every few days. The egg thief is back.

Initially, I came up with all sorts of elaborate "traps" for the egg thief that would not also injure the chickens. My favorite idea was to block off the egg laying area to the chickens from the inside, and leave the hatch accessible. Inside the hay, I planned on placing a large rat trap with an egg on top. After realizing that chopping off someone's finger with a rat trap would likely require considerable explaining to members of the the judicial system, I decided against that idea. Also nix'd was the idea of setting up a web cam to record the coop area from inside my girlfriend's house. I really didn't want to involve the police in catching the egg thief, or start a fist fight, over eggs.

The conclusion I finally came to was to lock the coop.

Chicken Coop - Post Latch Installation

This latch was able to correctly install - no accessible screws.

This latch had accessible screws - due to the shape of the lid here, any other installation would have been difficult.

 I did not worry too much about the exposed screws, as the hinges have exposed screws. 

It would still be possible for someone to steal the eggs by unscrewing three screws, but in my limited experience with thieves they are not interested in any kind of work, or forethought, at all. Likely, this will increase my girlfriend's chicken egg output. I'm not 100% positive that someone was stealing eggs, and this will help us find out. My friend Rob suggested that the thief may be non-human. Rob also suggested a goose as a 'watch dog' against the non-human variety of egg thieves. Lyric confirmed this, and said she would only be interested in a goose if she hatched it from an egg in an incubator, since otherwise the goose would be too mean to her.

The materials cost about $20 for this project. With the cheap, small, regular eggs I buy being around $1.25 / dozen, we'll need to get 16 dozen (192) eggs before this project pays off. Lyric said her awesome, free range, extra large eggs cost $5 / dozen. At the Brian cheap rate, that's about six months of eggs at one a day. Lyric's hippy/expensive rate required 48 eggs to pay off, or about 1.25 months. Mostly I like helping with the chickens because it turns table scraps and other garbage into eggs, and my girlfriend likes it. Economically, it might not make the most sense in the world (unless you like blowing your money on 'natural' foods), but it is fun and her chickens are nice.


Jeremy said...

Take a drill to the Phillips head if you really don't want to worry about the over achieving criminal unscrewing them.

Brian Stinar said...

I was thinking about wood filler on them, but the drill head sounds cleaner. There was an egg today. If tomorrow brings one as well, I think this will have accomplished my goals. I'm going to line up all the screw heads exactly the same, so if someone does mess with them I'll be able to tell.

Dj Efrain said...

The drill idea is a great one.... if not JB weld... but JB costs money....


Brian Stinar said...

The chickens are at an egg per day (total, for four chickens) pretty consistently. They are old chickens, and need to be turned into fried chicken or start laying more. I think this has foiled the egg thief.